Sure, there was Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III and Mississippi State's Will Redmond. There was Louisiana State's Jalen Mills and Auburn's Jonathan Jones (and the Patriots added Jones in undrafted free agency).
But ask the best receivers in the SEC who they thought was the best cornerback in the conference, and they all say Jones.
"I would have to say Cyrus Jones," Mississippi State and Patriots undrafted free agent receiver De'Runnya Wilson said at the Combine when asked about the best defender he faced. "He's a great guy. He played head up a lot. I didn't get an outside release. He had a lot of help inside so he would try to send me inside on the majority of my routes."
"There were some great guys," Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell replied to the same question. But the first name that came to mind? "Cyrus Jones."
Jones is a good fit for New England for multiple reasons. He's coverage versatile in that he can play both man and zone, press and bail. He's active against the run and relishes contact. He plugs into the defensive right of the formation, which is where 2017 free agent cornerback Logan Ryan aligns. He also contributes on special teams.
Alabama's head coach is Nick Saban, who served as defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick on the Browns in the mid-90s. As a result, Alabama defenders are generally familiar with Belichick's defensive requirements, and are also comfortable with doing their job and not freelancing.
Jones is still a growing player because he's only been a cornerback for three seasons. But his love of the game and his athletic potential point towards a very promising NFL career. Here's why he's going to succeed.
He sticks to the receiver like glue in press coverage
When Jones can put his hand on the receiver, he sticks to his man throughout the play. Jones does a great job of using the sideline as an additional defender and loves to remove the open field from his receiver. Note that he keeps inside leverage this entire route and even looks back for the ball once the receiver makes a move to try and attempt a catch. These are transferable skills to the NFL.
He attacks the ball like a wide receiver
Jones reads the quarterback this entire route and high points the ball. He clearly has top notch ball skills. His history as a wide receiver definitely helps him when he attacks the football in the air, and seems to help him read the receiver to diagnose the play.
But he's still learning the position
Here Jones bites on the receiver's first step to the outside. This is a tough situation for Jones, but he has no inside help and should have realized that the receiver was going to the open space. Jones loves watching tape and he'll only continue to improve.
"I love watching film," Jones said in his postdraft press conference. "I used to get teased a lot at ‘Bama by my coaches saying I should have an office where their offices were because I was in the film room so much and up there almost just as much as they were. I love watching film and think that's the key to becoming a better player. There are a lot of players in this league that have physical gifts and talent but you know working hard off the field, I think that's what separates you."
Here Jones is chipping a wide receiver before dropping into coverage. This is called "chucking" in the NFL rule book and it's totally legal. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asks his defenders to do this all the time.
Like, really tough
And here's Jones engaging and taking down Louisiana State's fullback. He's a tough player that loves to engage and help defend the run. You can be certain that his passion for run defense caught Belichick's attention.
He's also a fantastic punt returner
Oh, and Jones is also a human video game on punt returns. He makes a few cuts that no one should be able to make. Hopefully Jones can allow Julian Edelman to take a breather on special teams to prevent further injury to the favorite target of Tom Brady.
Let's dispel once and for all this fiction that Jones is only a nickel corner. He's bigger than Malcolm Butler. He played on the outside of one of the best defenses in the country. He matched up against some of the best receivers in all of college football and played very well.
Perhaps Jones will align inside as a rookie, similar to Logan Ryan, but Jones will ultimately take over on the outside and should be a great player for years to come.